Conducting a Christmas bird count during a pandemic was a challenge. Still, eighty-six observers divided into 35 teams participated. We were particularly fortunate in having Safari Park staff participate as the park was closed to the public. Many teams commented on the low variety and numbers of species, but collectively we recorded 155 species and more than 25,000 individual birds. These are typical numbers for this count circle which takes in parts of Escondido, Poway, Valley Center, and Ramona plus the San Pasqual and Pamo valleys and the Cleveland National Forest north of Ramona.
A list of all species and a list of all participants follows this account. The names of observers referred to below are abbreviated.
Rarities. The rarest ten species recorded on the count, based on the total number of records
over the thirty-six years we have conducted this count, are listed below.
- Clay-colored Sparrow, 3rd record. Noted in eastern Ramona (JD, SE, SM). This bird
regularly winters in southern Texas and Mexico.
- American Redstart, 3rd record. A previously-observed bird noted in Kit Carson Park in
Escondido (BM, MF). This warbler typically winters south of the U.S., but is fairly frequent in
winter along the immediate coast in San Diego County.
- Pacific-slope Flycatcher, 4th record. Two separate individuals were located in Kit Carson
Park in Escondido (BM, MF). This is a common summer resident, but usually winters south of
- Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, 4th record. Observed in eastern Ramona (JD, SE, SM). This is the
eastern counterpart of the Red-naped and Red-breasted sapsuckers. In addition, a hybrid Rednaped/
Red-breasted Sapsucker was photographed at Dixon Lake (SW, LR, THu).
- Commmon Loon, 6th record. Noted on Dixon Lake in north Escondido (SW, LR, THu). This
waterbird winters commonly along the San Diego coast, but is rare inland.
- White-winged Dove, 5th record in five years. Five were noted near the Ramona Airport (SP,
RG, PG). This is a denizen of the desert, formerly wintering largely south of the U.S. but now
spreading west of the desert edge in southern California and regularly over-wintering.
- Brewer’s Sparrow, 5th record. Another rare sparrow for this count circle, observed in eastern
Ramona (JD, SE, SM). This species more often winters in the desert and along the desert edge
of the county.
- Yellow-headed Blackbird, 7th record. An impressive 30 individuals were present in a large
Tricolored Blackbird flock along Rangeland Road in Ramona (PVH, RF, PF, BC). Are they
- Green-tailed Towhee, 8th record. Noted near Cloverdale Road in the San Pasqual Valley (PC,
TS). Most individuals winter in the southwestern states and Mexico.
- Gray Flycatcher, 9th record. Single individuals were noted by two teams. One of these taildipping
flycatchers was in the San Pasqual Valley (JB, MB, SB), a second was in the north end
of Pamo Valley (CA, SA).
- Clark’s Grebe, 12th record. One was observed on Dixon Lake (SW, LR, TH) and another fiftytwo
on Lake Wohlford (TL, AL, CLe) where they now outnumber Western Grebes. This species
was originally rare at Lake Wohlford, but has been regular at that loction in recent years.
High numbers, improving numbers. We observed record high numbers of our national bird,
the Bald Eagle, with three near Lake Ramona (BR), two near Rangeland Road (PVH, RF, PF,
BC), and two at Lake Wohlford (TL. AL, CL). We also achieved record high numbers of Wilson’s
Snipe, with a total of fourteen individuals observed by three teams and Hooded Merganser with
twenty-nine individuals spotted by five teams. One hundred and seven Scaly-breasted Munias,
recorded by seven teams, show the continued spread of this introduced “cagebird.”
We found better numbers of several species that have been in serious decline this past decade,
frequently noting only an individual or two on recent counts. These include six White-tailed
Kites (high count 43 in 1999), eight Northern Harriers (high count 16 in 2012), and eight
Loggerhead Shrikes (high count 37 in 1988). Nine teams recorded an encouraging forty-eight
Cactus Wrens, one of the many coastal sage scrub species that experienced drastic population
decreases following the destructive fires of 2003 and 2007.
No numbers, low numbers. We missed two species that we have never missed before:
Osprey and Golden Eagle (both showing up shortly after count day, of course). Shore and
marsh birds remain in low numbers or were entirely absent (Virginia Rail, Black-necked Stilt)
due to the continuing drought conditions.
More scarce species and local specialties. We regularly record a single Eurasian Wigeon on
this count, a duck that could turn up on any local water body. This year we recorded two, one
near Guejito Road in Valley Center (SM, TT, SN, RC, DN) and a second near Rangeland Road
(PVH, BC, PJF, RF). Two Redheads, always an “iffy” species, were noted at Dixon Lake (SW,
Zone-tailed Hawks were reported from the Safari Park (AR, TH) and vicinity (SW) and nearby in
south Escondido (THe, JG), quite likely the same individual. Seven teams recorded a total of
twelve Ferruginous Hawks. Two Peregrine Falcons were spotted at Kit Carson Park (PL, BM,
MF) and a third occurred in the San Pasqual Valley (JB, MB, SB) while two Prairie Falcons were
observed, one in north Pamo Valley (CA, SA) and another near the Ramona Airport (SP, RG,
Thirteen Common Ground-Doves were observed near Bandy Canyon Road in the San Pasqual
Valley (CM, JN, BO, KC) with three more present at the Safari Park (ELo, ELu). Two Costa’s
Hummingbirds were found at Lake Wohlford (TL, AL, CLe). Two Vermilion Flycatchers occurred
in east Ramona (NC) and a third showed at the Safari Park (ELu). Eight Bell’s Sparrows in east
RAmona (JD, TM, TE) were a nice total. Three Scott’s Orioles were on a prickly pear-covered
hillside on Summit Drive in south Escondido (KWe). A single Western Tanager was spotted at
Canyon Drive in south Escondido (PL) and two were at the Safari Park (ELu, TS).
Finally, here are the species represented by a single individual that boosted our list: Bluewinged
Teal near Highland Valley Road (BR), Common Merganser at Lake Wohlford (TL, AL,
CLe), Sora at Dixon Lake (SW, LR, TH), Merlin near Mule Hill in south Esondido (DB, TR, CB),
Tree Swallow near Paradise Mountain Road in Valley Center (JC), Marsh Wren near Rangeland
Road (PVH, BC, PJF, RF), and a “Gray-headed” race of the Dark-eyed Junco near Paradise
Mountain Road (GB, LB).
Thanks go to all participants for your efforts in this strange and difficult time. Thanks, too, to the
folks who got up at “o’dark-thirty” to go owling (EH, JZ, NC, JD, SP, RG, PG, BR) and the folks
who took on some of our “off-the-grid” spots (CVO, TB, KW, CVT, LR, JR, JC). A special thanks
to Angela Ray of the San Diego Zoo Safari Park who not only surveyed a portion of the park, but
also recruited additional staff (ELo, TH, TS, ELu) to help with the count despite busy schedules.
Ken Weaver, CBC compiler
List of Participants
Christopher Adler, Supeena Adler, Ryan Andrews. Lori Andrews, Gerry Baade, Linda Baade,
Chris Baker, Dave Batzler, Jim Beckman, Michael Beeve, Sonja Beeve, Hal Benham, Tim Burr,
Paul Chad, Nancy Christensen, Joni Ciarletta, Kathleen Clever, Beth Cobb, Ricardo Cruz, Jay
Desgrossellier, Stacy Eisenberg, Patty Ellis, Steve Ellis, Evan Erdelyi, PJ Falatek, Matt Farley,
Richard Fowler, Jeffrey Giglio, Philip Grove, Rick Grove, Terry Haines, Ed Hall, Mary Jo Hayes,
Patrick Hayes, Tracy Henchbarger, Ter Hurst, Catherine Jain, Rustom Jamadar, Paul Jeffs,
Celeste Larson, Connie Lee, Paul Lehman, Leah Levine, Aedyn Loefke, Trysten Loefke,
Eleanor Lovell, Eric Lutomski, Clark Mahrdt, Susie Martin, Stacy McCline, Brennan Mulrooney,
Susan Newlin, Jan Nordenberg, Dawn Nowlin, Barbara Orr, Beth Pearson, Stephen Perry,
Jim Rasmussen, Linda Rasmussen, Angela Ray, Kathy Reading, Bruce Rideout, Kevin
Roessler, Marty Roessler, Paul Roessler, Lisa Ruby, Tuck Russell, John Sanderson, Sally
Sanderson, Tom Simpson, Tiana Skrivseth, Diego Sustaita, Peter Thomas, Millie Thomas, Tom
Troy, Christina Van Oosten, Charles Van Tassel, Phoenix Von Hendy, Philip Unitt, Stan Walens,
Diane Walkley, Douglas Walkley, Ken Weaver, Adam Weiner, Kirsten Winter, Jim Zimmer.
Eurasian Wigeon, Guejito Road. Photo
by Susan Newlin.
Gray Flycatcher, San Pasqual Valley. Photo by Sonja Beeve.
Pacific-slope Flycatcher, Kit Carson Park. Photo by Brennan Mulrooney.
White-tailed Kite, Raptor Ridge. Photo by Peter Thomas.
American Redstart, Kit Carson Park. Photo by Brennan Mulrooney.
White-winged Dove, Ramona Airport area. Photo by Steve Ellis.
Yellow-headed Blackbirds (with Tricolored Blackbirds), Rangeland Road. Photo by PJ Falatek.
List of Species
Snow Goose (2)
Canada Goose (1164)
Wood Duck (3)
Eurasian Wigeon (2)
American Wigeon (978)
Blue-winged Teal (1)
Cinnamon Teal (18)
Northern Shoveler (236)
Northern Pintail (120)
Green-winged Teal (42)
Ring-necked Duck (156)
Lesser Scaup (100)
Hooded Merganser (29)
Common Merganser (1)
Ruddy Duck (255)
California Quail (231)
Wild Turkey (29)
Common Loon (1)
Pied-billed Grebe (38)
Eared Grebe (17)
Western Grebe (38)
Clark’s Grebe (53)
Dble-cr. Cormorant (262)
American White Pelican (48)
Great Blue Heron (10)
Great Egret (33)
Snowy Egret (37)
Cattle Egret (19)
Green Heron (3)
Black-cr. Night-Heron (21)
White-faced Ibis (104)
Turkey Vulture (185)
White-tailied Kite (6)
Northern Harrier (8)
Sharp-shinned Hawk (3)
Cooper’s Hawk (26)
Bald Eagle (7)
Red-shouldered Hawk (73)
Zone-tailed Hawk (1)
Red-tailed Hawk (164)
Ferruginous Hawk (12)
Common Gallinule (26)
American Coot (1045)
Spotted Sandpiper (5)
Greater Yellowlegs (3)
Least Sandpiper (5)
Wilson’s Snipe (13)
Ring-billed Gull (180)
Rock Pigeon (42)
Eur. Collared-Dove (173)
Common Ground-Dove (16)
White-winged Dove (5)
Mourning Dove (629)
Greater Roadrunner (12)
Barn Owl (5)
Western Screech-Owl (5)
Great Horned Owl (16)
White-throated Swift (36)
Anna’s Hummingbird (353)
Costa’s Hummingbird (2)
Allen’s Hummingbird (37)
Belted Kingfisher (8)
Acorn Woodpecker (413)
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (1)
Red-breasted Sapsucker (5)
Sapsucker hybrid (1)
Nuttall’s Woodpecker (109)
Downy Woodpecker (3)
Northern Flicker (59)
American Kestrel (63)
Peregrine Falcon (3)
Prairie Falcon (2)
Gray Flycatcher (2)
Pacific-slope Flycatcher (2)
Black Phoebe (229)
Say’s Phoebe (113)
Vermilion Flycatcher (3)
Cassin’s Kingbird (237)
Loggerhead Shrike (8)
Hutton’s Vireo (7)
California Scrub-Jay (254)
American Crow (1677)
Common Raven (313)
Horned Lark (53)
Tree Swallow (1)
Mountain Chickadee (9)
Oak Titmouse (108)
White-breasted Nuthatch (48)
Rock Wren (31